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Friday, March 13, 2009

Smiling Proud Wanderer: Chapter 21 (4)

Read the first 20 chapters here!

Linghu Chong was dumbfounded. He had been concentrating so much on the energy cultivation and dispersion that he didn’t even realize that three days had passed and that it was the day he told Mr. Black-White to come back. He didn’t even notice Mr. Black-White’s arrival. Luckily his voice was so coarse now that Mr. Black-White didn’t find anything unusual. He quickly let out several hollow laughs as an acknowledgement.
“The revered mister seems to be in a pleasant mood today. Why not make it the day the revered mister receives a new apprentice?” Mr. Black-White suggested.
Linghu Chong thought to himself, “If I agree to take him in as an apprentice and teach him these energy cultivation techniques, as soon as he opens the door and comes in, he’ll notice that there’s only Feng Er-Zhong, but no revered mister Ren. For sure he’ll have a fall out immediately. Besides, even if it were the real revered mister Ren, once Mr. Black-White learns those techniques, he’ll most likely manage to murder revered mister Ren, like poisoning the food or something. Right! It would be so easy for Black-White to murder me with poison. Why would he want to let me escape after he learns the secret formulas? No wonder revered mister Ren wouldn’t ever agree to teach him the secret art in the last twelve years.”
“Once revered mister teaches me the magical art, the humble apprentice will show his respect by serving the revered mister great wine and tasty roast chicken,” not hearing a reply, Mr. Black-White immediately proposed.
Linghu Chong had been imprisoned for many days and was only given plain vegetables and tofu each day. As soon as he heard the words “great wine and tasty roast chicken,” his mouth drooled with greed. This was too tempting!
“Fine. Go get me some great wine and tasty chicken first. If they get me into a good mood, I might teach you something.”
“Sure! Sure! I’ll bring back some great wine and tasty chicken. But I am afraid it won’t be today. If opportunity allows, I’ll bring them in tomorrow,” Mr. Black-White replied hurriedly.
“Why not today?” Linghu Chong asked.
“To get in here, I have to pass through my eldest sworn-brother’s bedroom. Only when he is away, I could…could….” Mr. Black-White explained, to which Linghu Chong let out a snort without saying another word.
Afraid that Mr. Huang-Zhong might return to his bedroom, Mr. Black-White dared not to stay any longer. He quickly said his goodbye and then went away.
“How can I trick Black-White into the prison cell and whack him?” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “This man is so crafty; it would be impossible to swindle him. Moreover, without a way to break these iron shackles and chains around my wrists and ankles, even if I succeed in killing Black-White, I would still be stuck here.”
With that thought, his right hand naturally reached for his left wrist and then pulled. This was only a spontaneous move, and he certainly didn’t expect the iron shackle to break open, but to his great surprise, the iron shackle did actually open. He gave it a few more hard pulls and even managed to free his left wrist from the shackle.
This was definitely not something Linghu Chong could foresee, and his heart thumped quickly from the mixed feeling of shock and delight. He examined the iron shackle with his finger and then found a slit in the middle of the ring. If he had not dispersed the inner energy streams inside him, any hard movement would have made him faint. Even with the slit in the middle of the shackle ring, he would not have been able to pull it open. Since he had been working on dispersing inner energy streams for over two days, the energy streams the Peach Valley Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment had forcefully injected into his body have been diffused into his Ren Channel, which in turn spontaneously originated strong inner force.
He felt the iron shackle on this right wrist. Sure enough, there was also a thin slit. He probably had felt the thin slit many times before, but never in his mind associated it with a crack in the shackle ring. He pulled hard with his left hand and freed his right hand from the shackle ring. Next he felt the two shackle rings around his ankles and also found thin slits in both. After some more hard pulling, he found himself breathless, covered in sweat, but completely free from all the shackles.
Once rid of the shackles, the iron chain no longer restrained him in anyway. He was truly puzzled: “Why is there a slit on each of the shackle ring? How could this kind of shackles have fettered anyone?”
The next day, when the deaf and mute old man delivered his food, Linghu Chong was able to actually look at the shackles closely. Next to each of the slits was a fine-grained saw pattern. Obviously someone had cut through the four shackles rings with a very thin steel wire saw. The slits shined under the dim light and there were no rust on the fractures. This meant that the cuts must have been made only recently.
“But why were these shackle rings closed again around my limbs?” Linghu Chong asked himself. “Someone must have tried to free me secretly. This underground dungeon is so well hidden; no one from the outside would be able to break in. Therefore, the secret rescuer must be someone inside the Plum Manor. Maybe he disliked the plot against me. That’s why he secretly cut open my shackles with a steel wire saw while I lay unconsciously in the prison cell. He probably didn’t want to openly declare himself an enemy of the Plum Manor, and he is still looking for an opportunity to help me escape.” At the thought, his spirit was greatly lifted.
“The entrance to the underground tunnel is concealed underneath Mr. Huang-Zhong’s bed in his bedroom. If it were Mr. Huang-Zhong who had wanted to rescue me, he could have done it anytime. He didn’t have to delay. Mr. Black-White obviously can’t be the one. Out of Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint, Mr. Paint is a confidant in the art of wine and had good fellowship with me. I bet it must be Mr. Paint.”
Then he remembered that Mr. Black-White would return the next day and thought about how he should cope with him. “I’ll just gloss things over with him. Why can’t I fool him with fake Kung Fu in exchange for some wine and meat?”
Then he thought, “Mr. Paint could come and rescue me any day now. I’ve gotta hurry and memorize all these formulas and techniques on the steel plate.”
He traced the carved characters and then recited each word carefully. When he studied these characters before, he didn’t pay very close attention, so memorizing everything with one hundred percent accuracy was no easy task. The handwritings on the steel plate were hasty and careless. With his limited education, he couldn’t recognize some of the poorly written characters. So he forced himself to memorize the strokes of the character and then randomly picked characters with similar strokes as substitutes. He knew that formulas for first-class martial arts are serious matters. Even one incorrect character could mean difference between life and death, success and failure. Any slight misunderstanding could very well lead to fire-deviation. Once he got out of the prison, who knows when he’ll be able to come back and reference the steel plate again? He must make sure he memorized everything with absolutely no errors.
So he read them again and again, losing count of how many times he had recited them, until he felt that he could even recite backward from the end to the beginning. Only by then, he felt at ease and allowed himself to fall asleep.
That night, in his dream, Linghu Chong actually saw Mr. Paint coming forth to open the prison cell door and let him out. The excitement woke him and then he realized it was only a fond dream. He didn’t let that depress him.
“He hasn’t come to rescue me today only because he doesn’t have the right opportunity. He’ll certainly come to my rescue before long,” he thought to himself.
He figured that although the formulas and techniques carved on the steel plate were very beneficial to him, they could be extremely harmful to others. If someone else gets locked up in this dark prison cell again in the future, that someone must have been a good person, and he wouldn’t let that person fall for Ren Woxing’s scheme. With that in mind, he traced the handwritings and recited the entire thing for another ten time or so, and then scraped off over a dozen characters in the passage from the steel plate using the iron shackles he freed himself from.
Mr. Black-White didn’t show up that day, but Linghu Chong didn’t care much about it. Instead, he continued cultivating his internal energy streams according to the formulas and methods on the steel plate. For the next several days, Mr. Black-White never came. Linghu Chong could tell that he had made great improvement in his training. Over sixty percent of the heterogeneous energy steams left inside him by the Peach Valley Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment had been successfully dispersed out from his Dan-Tian and into his various Ren and Du Channels. He was sure that all of them could be dispersed out if he persevered.
Each day, he would recite the formulas scores of times and then scrape off a dozen or so characters from the steel plate. He noticed a gradual increase in his strength, and it became easier and easier to scrape the steel plate with the iron shackles. Another month went by in this manner. Although he lived deep underground, he could still sense a gradual decrease of the sweltering summer temperature.
“This must have been the work of divine providence. If I had been imprisoned here during winter, I would never have found the handwritings on the steel plate. Who knows? Perhaps before summer hits, Mr. Paint would have already had me rescued.”
At that moment, he suddenly heard the sound of Mr. Black-White’s footsteps from the outside tunnel.

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Video of the Day:

This is another great scene from the movie Fist of Legend by Jet Li. The moves he used here are typical Qin Na (grappling) techniques.